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General keywording principles

Be Thorough

You should have keywords for all of the relevant objects that can be seen in the photo. However, you shouldn’t overload the photo with keywords that describe unimportant or irrelevant details. The key is to properly distinguish between the details that are important and those that aren’t. Just because you can see a small piece of the sky in a given image, that doesn’t mean that it should be included as a keyword, unless of course, there is something else in the image that makes the sky important.

Be Careful with Groups of Images

When you want to save time by assigning the same keywords to a group or series of similar images, you should make sure that all of the keywords are indeed valid criteria for each of the images. Also, you should add additional, specific information to the individual images afterwards to complement the general information.

For example, if you have a series of images of well known places in New York City you could add keywords like USA, New York City, City, World Locations, Landmarks... to the whole group of images.

However, you shouldn’t indiscriminately add keywords to the whole group if they only describe what appears in one or a few images. Empire State Building shouldn’t appear for the entire group unless it is shown in every photo.

Be Creative

You should include keywords which describe the meaning or importance of the photo, not just what is physically present in the image. These keywords should describe the creative or conceptual ideas that are present or implied within the image. Of course, creativity shouldn’t be taken too far or it becomes absurd. Not every image of a woman should include mother as a keyword, although someday that woman might become one.

Along the same lines, not every image of the ocean should include fish in its criteria, even though we can assume that there are tons of fish swimming around below the surface. If the idea association is stretched too far, you will be the only one who understands it, and the client will think that the search result is an error.

There are conceptual keywords which are frequently used in advertising to illustrate ideas and which can help clients to find your images if they are properly applied.

These are words such as: excellence, future, awareness, foundations, eco-system, leadership, global, carefree, etc. See additional concept words in the Concept keywords Section.

A careful use of these words can help your images be considered to illustrate these advertising concepts. But don’t give in to the temptation of massively using these words in all of your images because “keyword spam” frustrates the clients and reflects poorly upon the photographer and agency. Instead, you should use these conceptual keywords only when they are valid descriptions of the image or ideas evoked in the image.

Use Ordinary Words and Expressions

Ordinary words and common expressions can be understood easily all around the world. Using synonyms or expressions that are uncommon and strange will not help anyone to find your image. When choosing keywords, the obvious choice is the best choice.

Who would search for man’s best friend when they can simply search for dog?

Avoid Extremely Long Words or Phrases

Long words or phrases within your keywords will cause problems later on during the translation and indexation processes. Be specific and precise and keep in mind that a keyword isn’t the same thing as an image description. While there are some keywords which are logically made up of more than one word, such as New York, Wall Street, Computer Chip, or Ice cream, normally you should enter each keyword as an individual word.

For example, Elderly man leaning on a walking stick is an image description, not a keyword. The keywords for this image might include elderly, man, leaning, and walking stick.

Use Moderation

Of course it’s important that your images come up when a client searches our website, but that’s only a half of the process. The second half, just as important, is that your images actually match what the client is looking for. Keywording Spam is loading down your images with random keywords or with irrelevant keywords that have a vague connection with the photo. While you might be tempted to try this, in order to make your images appear frequently in different kinds of searches, it is a sure way to turn off clients. No one wants to be labelled as “search noise” because of an inconsistent, ambitious use of keywords.

In most cases, 200 to 300 keywords is more than any image needs to be correctly described. Remember that a dozen good keywords will always be better and more efficient than 100 bad keywords.

Avoid Opinions or Subjective Keywording

You should avoid making moral or value judgements on your subject like wonderful violinist, corrupt politician. Also, you should avoid adding these kinds of subjective keywords to photos of current events or news. Your personal opinion of subjects such as the Iraq War or Undocumented Immigrants should not be reflected in the keywords that accompany the image. Even in your ordinary, everyday images of people or events, be sure not to use keywords which might be offensive to others. Your keywords shouldn’t disqualify, denigrate, or stereotype other countries, religious/political/ethnic groups, etc. Also, they shouldn’t describe the physical characteristics of subjects in offensive ways.

For example, it’s better to use words like overweight, heavy, or obese rather than fat and enormous.

You should be especially careful to avoid offensive descriptions in your editorial images. Otherwise, you might miss sales and provoke the anger of a client, or worse, become the target of a lawsuit by someone who appears in your image.

Be Very Careful with Photos of Children

Please be very careful not to give misleading or inappropriate messages in your images of children. For example, little girls playing dress-up with mom’s jewellery and high heels or at the beach in a bathing suit should never have sexy as a keyword, or any other words that could be related to inappropriate concepts. Now days, in these situations, it’s better to be overly prudent and avoid the possibility of future misunder-standings or problems.

These are Not Keywords!

Please do not include information in the keywords such as the name of the photographer; his/her telephone number, model release information, film type, camera model, etc. This information is irrelevant for the image search by keywords and so it makes no sense to have it there.

If you have any doubts, or need further information, please contact
Eva Cascales.

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